Teachers said Hello! to White Paper

2nd January 1998 at 00:00
The Government's decision to leave thousands of copies of its education White Paper at supermarket checkouts has shed an interesting light on "parent power".

Around half the mums and dads who, back in the summer, added a summary of Excellence in Schools to their groceries and responded to its invitation for comments turn out to have day jobs - in education.

Several of the rest display a suspicious fluency in educational jargon, to judge by a sample of responses released by the Department for Education and Employment.

Copies of the summary were left in Tesco, Sainsbury's, Safeway, ASDA and Morrisons, and in BhS and WH Smith stores, in what was hailed as a ground-breaking attempt to involve the public in the New Labour project.

It cost Pounds 90,000 and generated 3,500 responses from parents - two-thirds from supermarkets, the rest from the department stores and a four-page pull-out in the News of the World.

Other White and Green Papers have since arrived on the racks next to Family Circle and Hello! magazine.

But the DFEE now reveals that 1,664 of the responses came from self-confessed teachers, and another 438 from heads. The sample of 30 released by civil servants included seven teachers, five governors, two college lecturers and a community education officer.

Analysis reveals parents' views to be split between those who help with their kids' homework and those who also set it.

Teacher-parents, for example, urged school inspectors to be more supportive, less critical, and asked for staff to be left alone to make their own decisions on how and what to teach - views echoed by governor-parents and that odd group with such a good grasp of jargon.

Most of the rest, on the other hand, came out in favour of swift sackings for incompetent teachers and surprise inspections by the Office for Standards in Education.

All agreed on the need for smaller class sizes, more parental involvement and a greater focus on literacy and numeracy.

The DFEE says it has noticed the split in responses, but is taking all contributions seriously.

Incidentally, the worst handwriting out of the random sample was the work of a higher education lecturer.

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